I want to direct your attention to two excellent articles that go way beyond the facile statement that “the Surge worked.” First, this Big Lizard post looks at the drop in deaths in Iraq and explains why it means that the US broke the insurgency’s back.
Second, this Bartle Bull (real name) article in Prospect explains in lucid detail the forces that were at work in Iraq before the war, what happened to them during the War, and why their current situations mean that, with the exception of (1) a few regional convulsions; (2) localized ongoing tribal fights; (3) localized mafia style crime lord battles; and (4) the never-ending mischief making of Iran and Saudi Arabia, it’s all over but for the shouting. Here are a couple of key summary paragraphs, but you’ll really be cheating yourself if you don’t read the whole thing:
Iranian-made rockets will continue to kill British and American soldiers. Saudi Wahhabis will continue to blow up marketplaces, employment queues and Shia mosques when they can. Iraqi criminals will continue to bully their neighbourhoods into homogeneities that will give the strongest more leverage, although even this tide is turning in most places where Petraeus’s surge has reached. Bodies will continue to pile up in the ditches of Doura and east Baghdad as the country goes through the final spasm of the reckoning that was always going to attend the end of 35 years of brutal Sunni rule.
But in terms of national politics, there is nothing left to fight for. The only Iraqis still fighting for more than local factional advantage and criminal dominance are the irrational actors: the Sunni fundamentalists, who number but a thousand or two men-at-arms, most of them not Iraqi. Like other Wahhabi attacks on Iraq in 1805 and 1925, the current one will end soon enough. As the maturing Iraqi state gets control of its borders, and as Iraq’s Sunni neighbours recognise that a Shia Iraq must be dealt with, the flow of foreign fighters and suicide bombers into Iraq from Syria will start to dry up. Even today, for all the bloodshed it causes, the violence hardly affects the bigger picture: suicide bombs go off, dozens of innocents die, the Shias mostly hold back and Iraq’s tough life goes on.
In early September, Nouri al-Maliki said, “We may differ with our American friends about tactics… But my message to them is one of appreciation and gratitude. To them I say, you have liberated a people, brought them into the modern world… We used to be decimated and killed like locusts in Saddam’s endless wars, and we have now come into the light.” Here is an eloquent answer to the question of when American troops will leave Iraq. They will leave Iraq when the Iraqis, through their elected leadership, tell them to. According to a September poll, 47 per cent of Iraqis would prefer the Americans to leave. The surprise is that it’s not 100 per cent. Who, after all, would not want his country rid of foreign troops? But if Iraqis had wanted government by opinion poll, they would have written their constitution that way. Instead, they chose, as do most people when given the choice, representative government.
And a big hat tip to Confederate Yankee for bringing my attention to Bartle Bull’s article.
UPDATE: Of course, victory doesn’t mean a damn thing when you’re completely invested in failure.